BIG to go big on BIG!

BIG to go big on BIG!

AFTER failing to get Government to commit to their idea of an universal cash grant to its citizens, the Basic Income Grant (BIG) Coalition yesterday announced plans to independently launch a pilot project to test its feasibility.

While naysayers continue to doubt the idea of a basic income grant, and supporters continue to praise it as the greatest potential weapon against poverty, members of the coalition say the time has come to move beyond talk. “The BIG Coalition in Namibia has decided that it is high time to introduce a BIG in Namibia.Therefore, the BIG Coalition is raising funds for the introduction of the BIG as a pilot in one speci?c area in Namibia for a limited period of time, but keeping the principles of the BIG,” Bishop Zephania Kameeta said.The pilot project could be expected to start running at the start of 2008, Kameeta said, and was likely to run for two years.While confirming that they had identi?ed a location for the project, the coalition was not prepared to reveal the geographical area.They said that doing so too early could affect the results of the findings at the end of the test period.”We want to see how people in this area live now.Then over the next two years we will look at what impact a basic income grant would have.That should allow us to make a scienti?c assessment.If we reveal the area now, we would have an in?ux of people there, which would result in artificial results being recorded,” the Reverend Dirk Haarman said.”We’ve come to a point where we said words are not enough.Now, if after two years we see this doesn’t work, then we’ll say – okay, it doesn’t work.And if it works we’ll be able to say – here, it works,” added Kameeta.Funding is being sought from individuals, and the coalition says a number of international organisations and congregations affiliated to the Council of Churches in Namibia (CCN) have already pledged their support.The original idea for BIG was that a monthly grant of at least N$100 be given to every Namibian below retirement age, after which they would become eligible for a state old age pension.The money would be recuperated from those not in need of it by an adjustment in the tax system.The pilot project would not be able to incorporate this tax provision, Haarmann said.However, the coalition hopes to make use of voluntary efforts on the part of members of the public, for example through banking stop orders.Registration for the pilot project will only be done once, Haarmann said, so anyone entering this area after this period would not be eligible.However, should there be an influx of relatives coming to move in with beneficiaries, this would be a ?nding that would need to be recorded for assessment after the project, he said.”If Namibia starts this, it will be seen as a bold step in tackling poverty,” said Herbert Jauch of the Labour Resource and Research Institute.”It should garner us a lot of respect.It is also important to note that this idea originated from Government itself, and they will get full credit for initiating it”, Jauch said.The said they had developed the idea for a BIG based on the findings of the Government appointed Namibia Tax Consortium (Namtax) in 2002.Namtax has said that they found that “by far the best method of addressing poverty and inequality would be a universal income grant”.The coalition announced the proposed pilot project yesterday at the launch of a booklet, ‘Promoting employment and decent work for all – towards a good practice model in Namibia’.”It has become clear that the just cause of employment and decent work for all is not a question of trying to change the behaviour of people, who are held responsible for their own misery,” Kameeta said on the findings detailed in the book.”Government needs to be aware of its role as being a people’s government, which needs to rectify the structural question and must not implicitly or explicitly blame the people.A structural problem needs a structural solution”, Kameeta said.”The BIG Coalition in Namibia has decided that it is high time to introduce a BIG in Namibia.Therefore, the BIG Coalition is raising funds for the introduction of the BIG as a pilot in one speci?c area in Namibia for a limited period of time, but keeping the principles of the BIG,” Bishop Zephania Kameeta said.The pilot project could be expected to start running at the start of 2008, Kameeta said, and was likely to run for two years.While confirming that they had identi?ed a location for the project, the coalition was not prepared to reveal the geographical area.They said that doing so too early could affect the results of the findings at the end of the test period.”We want to see how people in this area live now.Then over the next two years we will look at what impact a basic income grant would have.That should allow us to make a scienti?c assessment.If we reveal the area now, we would have an in?ux of people there, which would result in artificial results being recorded,” the Reverend Dirk Haarman said.”We’ve come to a point where we said words are not enough.Now, if after two years we see this doesn’t work, then we’ll say – okay, it doesn’t work.And if it works we’ll be able to say – here, it works,” added Kameeta.Funding is being sought from individuals, and the coalition says a number of international organisations and congregations affiliated to the Council of Churches in Namibia (CCN) have already pledged their support.The original idea for BIG was that a monthly grant of at least N$100 be given to every Namibian below retirement age, after which they would become eligible for a state old age pension.The money would be recuperated from those not in need of it by an adjustment in the tax system.The pilot project would not be able to incorporate this tax provision, Haarmann said.However, the coalition hopes to make use of voluntary efforts on the part of members of the public, for example through banking stop orders.Registration for the pilot project will only be done once, Haarmann said, so anyone entering this area after this period would not be eligible.However, should there be an influx of relatives coming to move in with beneficiaries, this would be a ?nding that would need to be recorded for assessment after the project, he said.”If Namibia starts this, it will be seen as a bold step in tackling poverty,” said Herbert Jauch of the Labour Resource and Research Institute.”It should garner us a lot of respect.It is also important to note that this idea originated from Government itself, and they will get full credit for initiating it”, Jauch said.The said they had developed the idea for a BIG based on the findings of the Government appointed Namibia Tax Consortium (Namtax) in 2002.Namtax has said that they found that “by far the best method of addressing poverty and inequality would be a universal income grant”.The coalition announced the proposed pilot project yesterday at the launch of a booklet, ‘Promoting employment and decent work for all – towards a good practice model in Namibia’.”It has become clear that the just cause of employment and decent work for all is not a question of trying to change the behaviour of people, who are held responsible for their own misery,” Kameeta said on the findings detailed in the book.”Government needs to be aware of its role as being a people’s government, which needs to rectify the structural question and must not implicitly or explicitly blame the people.A structural problem needs a structural solution”, Kameeta said.

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